Beyond my fence, is a little strip of land that’s technically public property – there’s a sidewalk and guardrail and whatnot out there.
It’s not mine. Or if it is, being outside the fence, it’s not top of mind. I don’t see it, unless I want to. But still, every so often I go out there and pick up the trash people have thrown out their windows as they drive by, or tear out the weeds that try to overtake it.
I don’t have to. It’s not my problem really. I don’t own that space.
The fence gives me the benefit of easy access to that street, and the privilege of ignorance about its state.
But ignoring problems because they don’t affect me directly just allows the garbage and the weeds to overtake the world around me.
Which, as I write this at the end of May 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s death (his murder) and protests, feels like an apropos analogy.
Racism is sin.* And sin left untended and ignored will grow like a weed to choke out the garden.
So I mull, as I spend a few days tending this space I could conveniently ignore – I have the privilege of being able to – but choose not to.
So first: the yard-work.
Because eliminating weeds takes time and effort, my process started last week, with borrowing the weedwhacker to cut down the latest growth of weeds.
Then this Saturday, I took out my sprayer and whipped up a batch of vinegar-soap-salt to wilt what had grown up during the week. Which was a lot, because left unchecked, weeds grow quickly.
But if I didn’t try to eliminate the weeds first, covering them up would be only a temporary cosmetic change, rather than a substantial one.
I let that bake in for a day and do its thing. Then I came out today and lifted out the walkway, and put down landscape fabric, and then re-placed the slate walkway.
Still to come: edging and mulch.
Once all that is done, I’ll still need to weed every so often. I’ll need to throw out the garbage that people discard to the wind. But I’ll be working from a good foundation.
It was harder work than I expected, but the discomfort was well worth it. Letting it get out of control just lets it become a breeding ground for all matter of nastiness that I don’t want to thrive and spill over. That’s not how to build a better world to live in.
* About 3-4 years ago my sister and I were walking around NYC, and she noted that at the time, I’d all but stopped blogging.
I told her that it was because there was something on my heart I couldn’t find words for but could not stop thinking about. Something deep and troubling … an amorphous mix of sexism and racism and the ways our hearts are corrupt and our society “others” people and treats some people as less-than and that we collectively fail, in short, to live up to our own ideals.
At the time I couldn’t even articulate it that much, to her.
But that something has only gotten worse since then.
Or maybe, it was exactly this bad — it has only gotten more blatantly apparent.
It isn’t ‘comfortable’ to see it. But I cannot look away.
I still don’t have the right words for it. Maybe I never will.
And really – although this is my blog for my own flotsam to be expressed – when it comes to issues of race, part of what I need to do as a white person in America is not talk but listen and hear. And show up, as needed.
The only way we can say that all lives matter is if we first agree that #BlackLivesMatter (or black lives matter too, if it helps you to better understand the phrase that way.)
I believe this is something the Lord has put on my heart. That it upsets me in part because it offends Him.
None of us has any worth that was not first given to us by God who made us. I’m not by my whiteness (or American-ness or so-called goodness, or anything else of the physical world or of myself) any better than dust, let alone better than any other person.
But at the same time, He has deemed me and every other person for whom His Son died – a life offered to free All People Everywhere from sin, whether that person has accepted this gift of grace (yet) or not – to be of eternal and infinite worth. Literally worth dying for.
And that’s not because of literally anything about me or us, but everything about who He is.
If we look for anything but Him to be the foundation of our worth, or anyone else’s worth (or as the basis to imagine someone else’s lack of worth), that’s idolatry and sin.
And yet the fallen human world we live in doesn’t operate as if we are all equally precious, made in the image of and beloved of God. It treats me as subtly and ever-so-slightly less than men of the ‘majority’ race (here, that’s ‘white’ whatever that even means really) and to varying degrees of better than people of any other skin color.
I am not less than.
I am not more than.
I do not want the world to treat me as such.
Or you, either.
But I know that it does, and if I blindly let it – especially where it benefits me to do so – then I am part of the problem.
Galatians 3:28 — There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
In Galatians, Paul essentially reminds believers that all social constructs are eternally meaningless – and should not allowed to stand as divisions within the Christian community.
To the readers of the time, differences of Jew or Gentile were not just religious but also racial and even national divides. But in Christ, those are gone. There is no difference for we are all intended to be one.
Power dynamics (slave or free) are dissolved in God’s economy. This world may offer greater freedom and advancement based on having more power, more money, more political or social influence (or what have you)… but in the deeper reality of God’s kingdom and society, these are worthless, for we are all intended to be one.
Biological gender characteristics may vary, but differences in societal value or norms are false divisions. Male, female, all humans were made in God’s image, and we are all intended to be one.
So I’m searching my heart and mind daily, even hourly. I’m praying for my community and its leaders. And I’m donating to groups that will do good work to help us fight false ideas of ‘supremacy’ in human society.
It isn’t an easy thing. But it’s important.
We can do better. We must.
And may God work on our hearts, because that’s where true healing begins.